The Very Worst of Me

Oh-h-h, she has your smile. She talks like you, too. Walks like you. And wow, her eyes. They’re the exact same as your husband’s. Same color of blue. Same laser intensity. And your little boy…look at him, he’s the spitting image of you. Everything, his hair, the twinkle in his eyes, the shape of his face…

I hear these things and I smile. They warm my heart. They’re the kind of thing I use to wonder about, dream about. How would my kids be like me? How would they be like my husband? Which features would they inherit? I tended to think they would be the very best of me…the very best of him. Of us. Like our own personal greatest hits.

 

ourfamily

But there’s another side to the equation, a side I never thought about until I actually had children. We, each of us, have good traits, good features, characteristics, but we also have those that we aren’t so fond of. That maybe need work, improvement. That we struggle with…wish we could change. There’s the very best of us, and the very worst. And our children inherit both.

I’m a worrier. Always have been, probably always will be. I’m not real happy about this, but for as long as I can remember, my mind always runs to the worst possible scenario. If someone was late getting home, they’d been in a car accident. They were in a ditch somewhere, horribly injured, or worse. If a friend was unresponsive to me, or looked at me the wrong way, or heck, maybe their voice just wasn’t right or they didn’t return my call…they hated me. I’d done something terrible to them, and now they were done with me. Airplane turbulence…we were going down. A headache…an aneurysm. A summons to my boss’s office…I was fired. You get the picture.

Yeah, not a real fun way to be.

This is something I’ve really worked on in my adult life, to overcome this near debilitating habit of worrying. Then, one horrible day, I noticed my daughter doing it. She heard a weather forecast. There was a chance of storms. Maybe even a tornado. And suddenly she was beside herself, freaking out that there was going to be a tornado and we were going to die. Another day it was the thought of a test the next week, a big test by third grade standards, but suddenly she was extrapolating failure on that test out all the way to failure to get into a good college, which meant she wouldn’t have a good education, wouldn’t get a good job… Once she even told me that she got worried when she realized she wasn’t worried, because that made her worry that she was forgetting what she was supposed to be worried about.

Houston, we have a problem. Right there in that sweet little child of mine….the very, very worst of me, the big, bad dark cloud that followed me everywhere.

Ah, baby. I’m so sorry. THAT is not something I wanted to share with you. My eyes, my mouth, my smile….those. That’s what I wanted for you.

Then there’s my son. He’s the one that favors me, from a physical perspective, much more closely. But…he’s also got my emotional makeup. And my cognitive. And so much more. You can’t tell him to do (or not do) anything. You can’t spare him an accident, or pain. He’s got to learn it himself, often the hard way.

Just like me. (My daughter, she’ll actually listen…just like her father…)

So I realize it one day. Holy cow, these poor sweet kids. They inherited some of the best of me, but some of the worst, too. (For the record, they got the best and worst my husband, too!) It’s a total mixed bag…and it’s so, so sobering.  (The good, the bad, the ugly, anyone?) It’s like some kind of karmic, cosmic joke, I found myself thinking.

Or lesson.

What better way to force you out of your own destructive habits, your own neurosis or blind-spots, than the desire to spare you kids, show them a better way? Seeing my own struggles manifest in my children both challenges and inspires me to step up and be a better version of myself. I want better for them. I don’t want them to get stuck in the same traps I did, the same train wrecks, to deal with the same self-inflicted wounds. I don’t want my daughter to worry herself into an ulcer, or my son to learn every lesson the hard way. It’s so eye-opening sometimes, when maybe I’m lost in my own worry, but suddenly see my daughter descending into her worry (often about the same thing), and suddenly I’m cast in a different role. No longer can I wallow in my own worry because now, as a parent to this little person I love beyond imagine, it’s my job to teach her a different way. A better way. I’ve got to find a way through my own dark forest…so I can help her find a way. And my son…I’ve got to put aside my own emotional volatility and figure out how to rein him in without stomping on his spirit…and without him realizing he’s being corralled. (It’s fascinating to look back and realize this is a trait I inherited from my father, which, I know now, is why we butted heads so famously when I was growing up. I didn’t like being dictated to…and neither did/does he. And neither does my son.)

It’s something I tell my nieces, half jokingly, half not. That guy you’re dating? The really hot one or the really exciting one? The one who sometimes drives you notes? Who you think you might want to marry? Just remember, you’re going to end up raising a little him…the good, and the bad 🙂

The very best of us, and the very worst of us. A composite. That’s what our kids are. A mirror, inside and out. And a chance, I’m coming to think, a chance to step outside ourselves and help create something different, better.

We can’t undo our past, but the future—our children’s future—is yet to be written.

meandkids

How do you want to change their story, from your own?

 

(Photo credit: Wendy Valderrama, Valderrama Photography, http://www.valderramaphotography.com)

Kids and Lying

I think we’re nearing a crucial time in the Galen household. Another small part of innocence is about to be chipped away. I can’t blame this one on society because I’m sure it’s just part of human nature.

Princess Galen told a lie.

truth-257158_640I know it’s not the last she’ll tell, but it hurt my heart a little to hear the first one. I remember just a few months ago, at Christmas, her older male cousins were teasing each other and saying the other was a girl. PG didn’t get it at all. She kept arguing that they were boys. Finally, I explained to my nephews that she didn’t know what a lie was and had never told one. They were amazed, but I think that’s fairly typical for kids who are under 5. They think in truths and aren’t sophisticated enough for verbal deception (notice I say verbal).

Even Princess Galen’s first lie was awkward and muddled. We were talking, and she said “poo poo” or some sort of potty word. Immediately, she knew she had crossed the line, and she said, “I was talking about using the potty.” We hadn’t been talking about that, but she knew that was when it was okay to use potty words. Before I could even contradict her, she said, “I mean, I’m sorry for using a potty word. It was an accident.”

The lie lasted all of three seconds before she came clean. Still, I made sure to tell her that I appreciated her apology, and that she should always just admit her mistakes and not lie about them. Moms, I am not so naïve as to believe she will actually follow that rule always, but hopefully she follows it more times than not. I know this is part of growing up, but there are some parts of childhood I wish could last longer.

 

There’s a APP for THAT!

Are you a techie geek?

I’m not, really, but might have been in another life. I’m 44 years old, and saw my first computer when I was in the 9th grade at the Department of Defense Middle School in Curundu, Panama. The teachers brought in three full classes to crowd around one computer after which they executed a few simple DOS functions. I think we were all supposed to be amazed, but instead were underwhelmed, not realizing how much computers would evolve, and become an everyday part of our lives.

old DOS computer

And then there are smart phones! My kids laugh at my big honkin’ Galaxy Note III “phablet” (phone + tablet). I’m a published author but I also work full time, and I use my phone to try and keep up with all the moving parts in my world. My husband has an iPhone, as do both of my teenagers. My mom used to write down a list of chores she wanted me to do before she got home from work. I text my kids theirs. Texting also serves as our dinner bell, to tell them to come home from their friends’ houses down the street because it’s time to EAT!

We’ve inevitably downloaded some “apps” from the applications store. We’ve got the funny PhotoBooth effects where the kids can take pictures of us and put mustaches and big eyebrows on our faces and snort and giggle in the orthodontist waiting room, and then, because we are Walking Dead fans, we’ve got another to transform the grandparents and cats into zombies. More recently, the kids have been having fun with an app called Smule AutoRap that turns anything they say into surprisingly great rap music. My first thought after hearing some of my son’s raps about chemistry and our pet cats was: it’s THAT easy?

As for me, my favorite new app is Evernote, which is just a really great personal note taking system. You can type in your notes, take pictures, or input voice recordings and even video and organize in all into subject notebooks (if you like). I keep story ideas here, interesting names I might want to use and revision reminders—because all the best story tweaks come to me when I’m occupied doing something completely unrelated to writing, and I don’t want to forget them later when I’m back in front of my manuscript. It’s perfect for compiling business receipts. Pictures of wine bottles so I’ll remember them later, and recipes I want to look at when I’m at the grocery store. The best thing is that you can sync with the same app on your computer, so it comes in handy at tax time for easily organizing your business expenses.

What about you? Do you have a smart phone and a favorite app that you can share with us? Or is phone technology not your thing?

rainbow
Refilling Your Emotional Well

As a writer I’ve heard this phrase many times before, usually in a talk or presentation about creativity and tapping into your artistic or creative side. But I’ve also found that it’s an important phrase for life in general.

What I mean is, we’ve all read or written blogs about the busy-ness of life or about finding “me” time as an adult and a mom. Especially those of us who unrealistically try to be Supermom. ☺

But I also think the idea of refilling our emotional well is an important concept to teach our kids, too.

Oftentimes today our kids are overbooked, overscheduled, over-involved…over a lot of things. Sure, trying your hand at a variety of things can be a great way to develop and discover new talents, interests and skills. At the same time, doing too much can lead our kids to feel just like we do after a hectic day at the office, followed by an evening taxi-ing our kids to different activities, cooking dinner and washing dishes, capped off with a writing session in front of the computer. No wonder there are days when we feel frazzled, frayed or bamboozled.

So, just as we need a little “me” time, so do our kids. Think of it this way, if we teach our girls how to recognize when they’re getting to a point where everything seems too much when they’re young, maybe they’ll be better at balancing their responsibilities or at least doing so in a healthy way when they’re older.

Whether it’s curling up with a good book in a corner on the couch or under a tree in the back yard, or coloring with crayons, or going to the beach to have fun in the sun and surf…Whatever it is that makes them truly happy. That helps them feel re-energized and rejuvenated. Whatever brings a silly grin to their face.

Whatever refills their emotional well.

For me, that’s a day relaxing on the beach with a good book. A nap in my back yard with my puppy sniffing around for lizards. Watching a chickflick with family and friends. A day of baking gingerbread houses and Christmas cookies with my girls. Going salsa dancing. Putting on my music and going for a run.

How about for you, what helps refill your emotional well?

This makes for great dinner table conversation with your loved ones. Try it, and maybe someone will surprise you by their response.

I’d love to hear how it goes for you if you give it a try!

Silent Saint Complex

For those of you who follow me on any form of social media, you probably don’t consider me silent. In fact, most people who no me in my daily life wouldn’t consider me silent either.

By and large, I’m not. I like to chat, I like to share. But one thing I’m discovering is that I have a bit of a Silent Saint complex. I don’t know if that’s a real thing, but I’m calling at that. What do I mean by that? Well, I tend to do things that I don’t want to do, not say anything when people offend me, and in general my head down when things don’t go how I want all while internally lauding my overall goodness.

It’s a terrible cycle. I get angry about things, but I’ve talked myself into believing that I should say nothing to keep the peace. Then I can sort of bask in my virtuousness and feel like I have a reward for putting up with things that don’t make me happy.

Professionally, this kind of came to a head this week and I realize I would’ve been much better off if I would’ve spoken up. Because people can’t read my mind. I don’t know if things would’ve gone my way 100% if I had spoken up sooner, but the simple fact is if I go on feeling like a grand martyr who says nothing, nobody knows but me.

I’m very conscious of not wanting to be someone who complains all the time. And while I think in general that’s a good way to live, I think in certain areas of my life I’ve gone too far the other way. In my effort to not be perceived as demanding, or to not be perceived as difficult, I will keep silent about things that I simply shouldn’t keep silent about.

I don’t only do this in my professional life, I do it in my personal life as well. I allow people in my life to continue to say things that hurt my feelings because I’m averse to confrontation. But not only that, because I think part of me must get something out of feeling like I’m taking the high road. Like I’m somehow morally superior for slinking out of confrontation and accepting treatment that makes me unhappy. It makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something good, when really, I’ve accomplished nothing.

I don’t know if any of this makes sense, or maybe it does, if you are one who does it too.

I’m having something of a personal revelation about it actually. Realizing that I have to find the line between being someone who is calling out every perceived slight, and being someone who says nothing until they finally hit a wall and can’t handle what’s going on anymore. In my head I have a hard time seeing the middle ground. I’m so afraid of being the whiner that I let things pile on until I break.

This is not only unfair to me, but to the people around me. Because in my effort to keep the peace, I let myself continue to grow angry with people over things they don’t know offend me. And one day, when I snap on them they will have no warning. And I will be the one that’s in the wrong.

I’m working on correcting this. I faced some things head-on yesterday, they weren’t huge things, but they were things I felt I needed to be heard about. It was hard. It’s difficult for me to admit that I’m struggling with something. And it was very valuable. It was something I should have done earlier. Because, it turns out, that it wasn’t confrontational at all. A discussion was had, both parties were heard, and I think we both walked away from it knowing how to go forward in a way that works better for everyone.

Of course, when you do something like that you can no longer feel like a put upon Saint. Because you have to face your own failings in a given situation. Because you have to hear the other side. And maybe, in many ways that’s what I’m avoiding. It’s much easier to stew and feel justified in that stewing, than have to deal with where you might be wrong.

Anyway, this is my goal. To stop letting things build up. To stop falling into that pattern, and open up the lines of communication when I need to.

There, I feel better. 🙂

Cheater, cheater pumpkin eater…

So chances are you’ve probably heard something recent about all the piracy issues with electronic books. Authors are losing money and people are angry and the other side seems not to see the big deal. This all happened several years ago with the music industry. I think it goes hand-in-hand with some other trends we’ve seen about. So what is the big deal? Is it wrong to download a free copy of an electronic book if the author didn’t give permission to do so? Is it stealing? Is it cheating?

h7013E5E7I don’t know if any of you are aware of another significant problem in our society, but as you all know I am married to a college professor, and this is certainly something that affects our lives. College kids cheat, at an alarming rate. I’m sure it starts earlier because frankly they’re quite good at it, taking plagiarism to a whole new level. This semester alone The Professor had 2 students from two separate classes cheat on a final paper, one of these students was a graduate student so we’re not talking about an 18 year old kid here. And the level of deception is sophisticated. I’m not talking the purchase of papers though that clearly is still happening despite universities efforts to prevent such behavior.

I heard a news story a while back where an ethics professor who caught a rather large number of students cheating on a test and he gave them all the opportunity to come forward and turn themselves in even though he already knew exactly who they all were. During the news segment they interviewed some random college student and he was quoted as saying, “everyone cheats, it’s just the way it is.” I’m saddened by this though I don’t completely believe it either. Right now I have 2 nieces and a nephew in college and I’m fairly certain that none of them have cheated.

ImageBut the mentality seems to be that this is harmless behavior, but let’s consider for a moment that if you cheat on a paper and you don’t get caught, chances are you’ll do it again. But where does that end? Then do you cheat on your resume, add some “white lies” to get the job? Do you then borrow a co-worker’s idea and pass it off as your own? It’s harmless, right? What about in your family? Do you cheat on your spouse? It’s just an emotional affair so that doesn’t count, right? Or maybe it’s just harmless online flirting, nothing real. Where does it end? How harmless can it be when the behavior stems directly from your own personal ethics?

So what do you think? Is it okay to download a book for free? Is it the same thing as borrowing from a library? What about cheating in school? Is it okay to cheat just this once?

**Also I must tell y’all that I have a new book out, I hope you’ll all check out The Temptations of Anna Jacobs, it’s the second book in my Dangerous Liaisons series, an historical romantic suspense about the hunt for Jack the Ripper.

 

 


I’m Robyn DeHart, AKA Basket-Case Mama, but not because I’m crazy (though really, what mom isn’t?) but because I have a slight obsession with baskets, well containers really. I’m a bit of an organization nut and I love to containerize stuff. And yes, I’m authorized to use words like that because I am also a writer. But back to the kids, so I’m mom to two ridiculously beautiful little girls and I can say that without bragging because I didn’t actually make them. The Professor and I adopted said little lovelies from the foster-care system here in Texas and now we’re a big happy forever family. Busybee is five and so full of joy it just oozes from her. Babybee is a three and is too smart for her own good.  www.robyndehart.com

A Love so Pure

I’ve started and stopped writing this blog all day. I have a running list of topics I’d like to write about, from marriage to kids growing up too fast, the meaning of home, and kindness. I’ve learned to jot down thoughts when they strike me, so I can always go back to them later. I no longer trust myself to remember.

But today, my notes weren’t enough…because yesterday my cat died.

sofie 1

Her name was Sofie and she was 13. She came to us as a one-day old kitten, when we took in her mama and sister as fosters for a local rescue group. She was tiny and white and oh so sweet, and for a long time we laughed at what a sound sleeper she was. When we walked into the room, mama cat and sister would startle and look at us, but sweet Sofie would sleep on…as if she was completely oblivious to us. It wasn’t long before we realized that she was. Like many white cats, Sofie was born deaf.

Time came to put the kitty family up for adoption, but…we just couldn’t do it. We already felt so protective of sweet Sofie. We worried about what life might hold for her. About how vulnerable she was. About what would happen if she ever got outside…

So, yeah. Sofie never went anywhere. She opened her eyes into our world, and in our world she stayed…until yesterday.

But that’s not what I want to talk about…yesterday. The end. How hard it was to say goodbye, and the emptiness we all feel. The second guessing…and the soul-gnawing guilt. Well, actually I probably do need to work through all that, but right now, I’m more focused on the other side of the coin. Not on the loss, but the love.

I have no memory of a life without furry friends. I grew up with cats, adopting my own as quickly as I could once I moved into my first apartment. From there one cat became two, at times three. After I married, we branched out and brought canines into our realm of felines, and we’ve had a mix of both ever since.

And now I find myself sitting here, reflecting on my furry friends, and all that they brought to my life. When you share your life with a furry friend, you’re never alone. We tend to think that we care for them, but in so many ways, they care for us. They’re there. They’re always there, bounding to greet us when we get home, following us from room to room, crawling into our laps when we sit down, nuzzling us when we desperately need contact. They make us smile and they make us laugh, they give us love and make sure that we’re never alone. They love us. Unconditionally. They love us when we’re happy and nice to them. They love us when we’re busy and don’t have time for distractions. They love us when we’re angry or stressed, when we turn away or shut them out, when we don’t want to be bothered. They love us when we’re sad or broken-hearted. They just…love us.

And through them, our furry friends, through that pure, pure love, we learn far more than we could ever teach them. We learn about loyalty and forgiveness, about vulnerability and innocence and trust, about companionship, about silliness and simplicity, about being in the moment and loving the moment, about not worrying what tomorrow may bring, about the importance of hanging out and relaxing, about friendship. And love. They teach us how to love, what it feels like to be loved, and to love in return. Unconditionally.

Four years ago we lost our ancient black lab, Clyde. We went six months without a dog, before my (then) seven-year-old daughter started hounding us for a puppy. Kids today have way more resources at their disposal than we did. We had to look at classified ads. Kids today have the Internet, and my girl knew about Petfinder. She’d hunker down at my laptop, key in her criteria, and presto, she had an endless supply of puppy candidates at her fingertips.

My husband and I, however, were like….a dog. You know, all that work. The poop in the backyard. The vet and boarding bills. The training…. But after our initial reluctance, we realized allowing our daughter to adopt a puppy was about way more than poop and bills and work. It was about…her. Our daughter. Her childhood. It was about allowing her (and our son) to have experiences my husband and I had already had. It was about letting her love and be loved, about letting her learn and grow. And so Roxie, a clumsy white puppy who became a big white dog, came into our family.

And so I sit here now, my heart raw after a rough ten days, but so very, very grateful for the thirteen years we had to love our sweet Sofie. I wouldn’t trade them for anything. Because no matter how badly goodbyes hurt, there is no greater gift, than that of unconditional love, them to us, and us to them. That is their legacy, and it’s worth all the dirty litter boxes and piles of backyard poop in the world.

sofie 2

Girls’ Hair Styles

Sorry moms with all boys, this is a blog about girls’ hairstyles.

For the longest time I had a lot of envy toward those moms who were able to persuade their daughter to keep a bow in her hair. It seemed everywhere we went, little girls had cute barrettes or bows or ribbons, while my own little girl ripped them out as soon as I put them in. I finally found those small elastic bands and started using those. She couldn’t rip them out, and they kept her hair out of her face and, more importantly, out of her food.

But now that Princess Galen is four and a half, I want to do more than pigtails. And I want styles that will last throughout the day because Princess Galen is only going to let me brush it once a day. It has to last. She still won’t wear bows or barrettes, so I want the style itself to be pretty.

That’s where braiding comes in. I took PG to have her bangs trimmed, and the stylist braided her hair before we left. It was a headband braid, and we were able to leave it in for two days. Do you know how peaceful those two days were? The next week I took PG back just for the braid. But my husband wasn’t thrilled about paying for hair braiding every few days, so I decided to learn to French braid. I found Cute Girls Hairstyles.

There I learned to French braid

french

Dutch braid

dutch

dutch single

Dutch single braid

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and make up a few variations of my own

I’m working on the headband braid. Princess Galen has even gotten a little excited about it. She wants me to do this butterfly headband braid.

butterfly

I guess you’re never too old to learn. Have you learned anything new lately?

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Finding Some Balance in Life

life balance

Somedays I feel like I’m doing pretty well. I’ve got my priorities straight, things under control, kids all headed in the right direction… It’s all good.

And then there are other days- like today- when I can hear Life laughing at me and what it thinks as my feeble attempts to make any progress.

I’ve got a job that keeps me running during the day, sometimes into the evening, and a volunteer list that fills up quite a bit of my dance card fairly often. But my girls are out of the house, leaving me with just a pooch that’s needy for attention. So, why is it that I still can’t seem to get a good work, writing, volunteering, exercising, sleeping, fun-time schedule figured out?

I homeschooled my girls for multiple years and kept a pretty rigid schedule during the day. We had to in order to meet the goals I’d set out for them as students. While I was in my both of my master’s programs I had a detailed schedule for reading, homework, research and writing. And I’m proud to say I was a great student. 🙂

So again, why is it that with others or when others are involved I’m better at trying to ensure everything is good to go. But when it comes to just plain me– exercise to feel better, write more often because I love it and plan to sell someday, sleep more because my body needs it– I keep falling off the wagon?

I’m wondering if it’s my need to help others or focus on others rather than focus on myself. Sometimes that’s a good thing– others before self. Sometimes, it’s a bad thing– help others to the detriment of self.

It’s about balance. That’s what I talk to my girls about. So, I’m thinking it’s time for me to practice what I preach.

Recognize that if I want to sell a book or feel healthier about my body, then I need to do something about it. Make it a priority just like I make thinking about others a priority.

So, I ask you, is there something you’ve been wanting to do or thinking about doing that you keep putting aside? Is now a good time to work on that or try that? Maybe, maybe not. Only you can decide.

But I’d love to hear how you’re coping with finding balance in your daily life. It can be a struggle. Hearing how others handle it, make it work, or maybe flounder sometimes, too, helps me realize that I’m not alone in this. And maybe something that helps one of you might be a great tip for me or our readers to try.

Thanks for sharing!!